Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Scientists excited by discovery of ice mountain below the surface of Mars

By the 2030s NASA hopes to send human explorers to Mars the surface of which is seen in a May 2017 handout NASA Mars orbiter finds thick layers of exposed water ice on Martian slopes
Doris Mccormick | 12 January, 2018, 16:04

For more than a decade, Colin Dundas, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona, has had a daily routine: inspecting a dozen or so high-resolution images beamed back every day from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). A few years ago, the $720 million spacecraft returned images and data that showed a pale sliver of blue amid the terracotta-colored dust.

It is expected that the layer of ice on Red planet surface can be found from 1 meter to 100 meters of depth.

Scientists have discovered thick sheets of ice under the surface of Mars.

The deposits were found at seven geological formations called scarps, with slopes up to 55 degrees, in the southern hemisphere and one in the northern hemisphere. Mars even has polar ice caps.

A radar instrument on the MRO previously detected signatures of thick, buried ice across the planet's belly, however, this latest study indicates a greater prevalence of Martian ice.

"One of the most interesting observations was seeing boulders fall out at one scarp, which suggested that it's actively sublimating or retreating, and also helped confirm that it was exposed ice and not surface frost", Dundas said. That thing was likely snowfall, Dundas says, which was in the long run compacted into these stores. The destinations, with their effortlessly available ice, are drawing consideration as conceivable spots to develop future bases.

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They found that the ice persisted through the martian summer, when any ephemeral frost would have vaporized. Some of the deposits are under just one or two meters of dirt. Dundas says ice at the surface is changing from strong into vapor, making the inclines fall and turn out to be additionally uncovered.

"If the conclusions of the paper are correct", he said, "you're looking at something that's nearly pure ice".

It has been known for some time that some locations on Mars have water ice just below the surface - but until now, there has been no accurate way to know just how much. "They hold clues about Mars" climate history.

As Science reports, "Water is a critical asset for space travelers, since it could be joined with carbon dioxide, the primary fixing in Mars' air, to make oxygen to inhale and methane, a rocket fuel". "Our research may be useful information but it will be up to them to determine how to use it".

The ice cliffs promise abundant, accessible ice, noted Abbud-Madrid, who led a recent NASA study exploring potential landing sites for astronauts. "What's the cutoff point?" he asks.

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